The questions about dying asked by toddlers and preschoolers

There is a beginning and an ending for everything that is alive. In between is living.” Pat Thomas

In her book I Miss You: A First Look at Death Ms. Thomas begins “Every day someone is born…and every day someone dies.”
She then also states “Death is a natural part of life. All living things grow, change and eventually dies.” This is a great picture book to help toddlers and preschoolers understand that all living things die, and we are living things. It’s an opener for us to first talk about what living things are and what non living things are. Then we can bring in examples such as bugs, plants, animals and their life cycle, which will then lead you into ours. When you’re inundated with the questions you will have a base to work from.

Where do you go when you die? What is a cemetery? Are you going to be buried? What happens?  Where is your mummy? Why did she die? How did she die? You must miss her.

We went through a phase – the never-ending questions about death, dying and how it happens. It started at 2.5 years and we’re still in it. I found some books about dying that talk about it, in a non religious way. We all have various beliefs, but these books are wonderful ways of talking about death in a way young children can process. How I introduced it? I bought all the books listed below and put them on their bookshelves. When the girls saw them we just read them, the way we read books of Fancy Nancy, Curious George etc. My girls ask loads of questions when reading these books, so I just handled the books that talked about dying the same way. For example in the book The Tenth Good Thing About Barney by Judith Viorst, Barney is buried in the ground and my girls ask – whether I’ll be buried in the ground. I clearly and factually say no, I want to be cremated. Then the next question is “what is cremation?” So I just tell them. I do say that I want to be scattered in the PNW where the whales are and then my husband proceeds to announce, under his breath, that I want to be fish food, but the questions are answered honestly, simply and factually.

When my children ask if I’m going to die, my response is Yes, someday… but not soon, because I’m not done living yet”.  When my children say “I don’t want to die” – I reply You will die sometime but not yet because you have loads more living to do.”

Here are the books that we have on our shelves. I hope they provide some comfort when needed and help answer some questions. As always if you have a suggestion please let me know.

The Tenth Good Thing About Barney

Lifetimes: The Beautiful Way to Explain Death to Children

Nana Upstairs and Nana Downstairs (Picture Puffins)